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Capitol Capers - 2014 Indiana Legislative Session Update

Date: March 04, 2014

We’re in the homestretch!  Just a few more days before the 2014 Indiana Legislative Session officially winds to a close.  Things may be winding to a close, but it is not a time for those who care about small business and good public policy to rest. It is “Deathwatch” time.

Somehow, I know you’re just dying to ask me what “Deathwatch” means…..

“Deathwatch” is that special time of the session when those of us who are involved in the legislative process must be hyper-vigilant.  It is the time for Conference Committees; the phase when nearly anything can happen as legislation is finalized.  Bills can live, die or rise from the dead.  (Sounds like a horror film, doesn’t it?)

So how does this work?  If a bill passes both the House and Senate but is amended along the way and the versions differ, the legislation may be assigned to a Conference Committee.  And it is there, in conference, that language can be inserted that may substantially change the legislation.  Therefore, your NFIB Indiana team will be watching Conference Committee action to ensure that nothing happens that will hurt small business.

Here’s a rundown of the bills we’re working on and the issues we’re following:

HB 1001-  Tax Exemption for New Personal Property -  This bill has been significantly changed as it moved from the House to the Senate.  Among other provisions, this bill specifies that if the acquisition cost of a taxpayer's business personal property in a county is less than $20,000 for a particular assessment date in 2016 or later: (1) the taxpayer is not required to file a personal property return for the taxpayer's business personal property in the county for that assessment date; and (2) the taxpayer's business personal property in the county is exempt from taxation for that assessment date. Specifies that this exemption does not apply to mobile homes assessed as personal property, personal property held as an investment, or personal property that is owned by certain utilities subject to regulation by the utility regulatory commission and is assessed as utility property. Requires the taxpayer to file an annual certification with the county assessor.

Reforming Indiana’s Business Personal Property Tax is the number one state issue for NFIB members.  Indiana State Director Barbara Quandt and four NFIB members testified in support of the original language when it was heard in the House Ways and Means committee and in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. It has now been combined with SB1.

Note:  If you haven’t already done so, tell your legislators that you support reforming the Business Personal Property Tax.

SB 1 – State and Local Taxation -   This Senate bill has changed substantially as it moved through the House.  This bill originally provided that if the value of a taxpayer's business personal property is less than $25,000, there would be no need to file a business personal property tax return.

SB1 now provides that a county income tax council may adopt an ordinance to exempt from property taxation any new business personal property (other than utility personal property) that is located in the county. Provides that a designating body may establish an enhanced abatement schedule for personal property that may not exceed twenty-five (25) years.  Among other provisions, it phases down the corporate income tax rate from 6.5% in 2015 to 4.9% in 2022. Phases down the financial institutions tax rate to 4.9% in 2023. Provides that a taxpayer is not entitled to: (1) a riverboat building tax credit for qualified investments made in a taxable year beginning after 2014; (2) a biodiesel tax credit for the production or distribution of biodiesel or blended biodiesel in a taxable year beginning after 2014; (3) an ethanol production tax credit for the production of ethanol in a taxable year beginning after 2014; and (4) a new employer tax credit for wages paid in a taxable year beginning after 2014.

HB 1020 – Study of Economic Development Incentives – Among other provisions, this bill requires the commission on state tax and financing policy to review, analyze, and evaluate state and local tax incentives that are provided to encourage economic development or to alter, reward, or subsidize a particular action or behavior by a tax incentive recipient. Requires the use of a five year review schedule. Requires the commission to publish a report before November 1 each year on tax incentives reviewed that year.

Note:  This bill is one that emerged following the series of Town Hall meetings conducted last summer by the Indiana Legislature’s Small Business Caucus.  Legislators really listened to small business owners’ concerns.

HB 1198 – Business Single Point of Contact with State - Specifies that state agencies, including the department of workforce development and the department of state revenue, shall provide assistance at no cost to the secretary of state in developing and maintaining a one stop Internet web site for businesses to use. Requires the department of state revenue and the department of workforce development to coordinate with the secretary of state to use an Internet web site to share information with other state agencies and to provide a single point of contact with all state agencies for a person to accomplish various requirements to transact business in the state.

This is another proposal emerging from the Small Business Caucus Town Halls last summer.  Small business owners repeatedly expressed their frustration in dealing with state agencies and the difficulty they encounter when attempting to get timely, accurate information. 

HB 1241- Environmental Coverage-  This bill specifies the manner in which the meaning of "pollutant", as used in certain liability insurance policies, must be construed.  This is a controversial issue that has small business owners concerned that they will be hit by cleanup costs that insurance policies will not cover.  NFIB is working with the bill’s sponsor and others to protect our members.

This legislation failed to pass out of Senate Insurance Committee and is dead for this session.

HB 1301 – Fire and Building Safety Issues – Among other provisions, this bill requires the state building commissioner to issue a written interpretation of a building law or fire safety law not later than 10 business days after the date of receiving a request. It provides that a design release may be issued without a plan review if: (1) the application for a design release is complete; and (2) the application for a design release is not selected for a plan review by the division. It establishes deadlines for the division to conduct plan reviews and provide notices. It also provides that, with certain exceptions, if the division fails to provide notice or complete plan review within the time required by statute, a design release must be issued without further review.  

HB 1301 is yet another issue that was brought up at the Small Business Town Halls.  Many complaints were raised about the slow pace of plan reviews and the adverse effect this has on small businesses around the state.

HB 1301 has passed the House and Senate.

HB 1332 – Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship – This bill codifies the law concerning the office of small business and entrepreneurship. It transfers the small business development center, the small business ombudsman, and the young entrepreneurs program from the Indiana economic development corporation to the office of small business and entrepreneurship by removing or repealing the appropriate provisions in the Indiana economic development corporation law and recodifying them in the law concerning the lieutenant governor. It extends the young entrepreneurs program by two years and makes other changes to the Indiana code.

State Director Barbara Quandt testified in favor of this legislation that makes common sense streamline changes and places greater emphasis on the job creators of Indiana.

HB 1332 passed out of the House and Senate.

These are just a few of the issues we’re working on.  I will be updating you in this space on a regular basis.  If you have a bill that is of particular interest to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me by phone at 317-638-4447 or by email at barbara.quandt@nfib.org.

Thank you for being an NFIB member!

Barbara Quandt, NFIB Indiana State Director

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